Teen climate champion Greta Thunberg brought her global environmental message to the heart of the US government yesterday, telling her legion of supporters on the lawns outside the White House: “Never give up.”
But outside the gates she stayed, not keen to go inside.
After declining to meet with President Donald Trump, she said: “I don’t want to meet with people who don’t accept the science.”
The 16-year-old Swede, who has inspired youngsters across the world with her urgent call to arms, is demanding action from the world’s number one economy and its notoriously climate change sceptical president.
Yesterday’s gathering was part of a demonstration kicking off two weeks of protest.
Thunberg joined a few hundred people who shouted slogans and sang, but was careful to stay near the back, avoiding the limelight and questions from the media before finally addressing her supporters.
Whispering into the megaphone, she thanked the crowd and told them, “Never give up — we will continue.”
“I’m just going to say I’m so incredibly grateful for every single one of you, I’m so proud of you to have come here,” she said.
Her words caused a stir on social media, with some criticising the president for ignoring Greta and the group sitting on his doorstep.
Greta Thunberg, an amazing young person — a Nobel Peace Prize nominee and leader of an international movement to address climate change — crossed the Atlantic Ocean on a sailboat to stand outside the White House and be ignored by our disgrace of a President. https://t.co/8WPA6W9Gi3
— J. Dice 🎲 (@jdice03) 13 September 2019
Thunberg isn’t as well known in the United States as in Europe, but her six-day stay in the capital Washington will nonetheless be marked by high profile honours.
On Monday, Amnesty International will present her its highest honour for human rights work and she will testify before Congress on September 18 on the invitation of House Democrats.
On Wednesday she was a guest on The Daily Show in New York, where she called again on young people to mobilise and to stop man-made global warming, since older generations have failed to act.
“We in a way feel like it is a direct threat, others feel like, ‘I won’t be alive then anyway, so screw it,’” she said.
Thunberg, who was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome at the age of 12, arrived in the US on August 28 on a zero-emissions yacht. The boat was equipped with solar panels and underwater electricity turbines to ensure that it left a minimal carbon footprint.
She rose to fame after she began sitting outside the Swedish parliament in August last year to get members to act on climate change.
She was quickly joined by other students around the world, as word of her strike spread through the media, and the “Fridays for future” movement was born.
New York authorities have given their blessing for the next strike on September 20, in which students from the city’s 1,700 schools will participate.
We have ten years to save the planet.
Today’s leaders are making decisions for our environment that our kids will have to live with.
New York City stands with our young people. They’re our conscience. We support the 9/20 #ClimateStrike.
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) 12 September 2019
THE PEOPLE LISTEN
A growing number of Americans are describing climate change as a “crisis,” and two-thirds believe the president is doing too little to tackle the problem, a new poll published by the Washington Post said Friday.
The poll found that about eight in 10 Americans believe human activity is fuelling climate change, and roughly half believe urgent action is needed over the next decade to avert disaster.
But President Donald Trump’s administration remains deaf to these demands.
Since taking power in 2017, the president has pursued an aggressive policy of deregulation of everything from traffic pollution to coal-fired plants, drilling offshore and in the wilderness, and the maintenance of clean waterways.
Many of the roll-backs have been challenged in court and are not yet in effect, but it represents a 180-degree shift in direction over his predecessor, Barack Obama.
American policies will undoubtedly come under fire when the UN holds a series of high level climate meetings in New York over the coming weeks.
But the US is far from alone, with experts deeming the climate commitments from nearly every country fall far short of what is required.
A Youth Climate Summit will take place at the UN on September 21, followed by the UN Climate Action Summit on September 23 convened by the Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to find ways for countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Agreement.
Guterres has called on leaders to reduce these emissions by 45 per cent over the next decade, and to net zero emissions by 2050.
Thunberg will be ever present, whether marching on the streets or in rooms filled with powerful global leaders, who have done little so far to impress her.
“Even though this movement has become huge and there have been millions of children and young people who have been school striking for the climate,” Thunberg said in a past interview, “the emission curve is still not reducing … and of course that is all that matters.”
Originally published as Teen activist shuns meeting with Trump